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Mentoring v Coaching

Hello, everybody, welcome to this series of blogs and videos called 'The Coaching Conversation' This week we are delighted to welcome guest host and The Executive Mindset coach, Roz McDonald. So, it's now time to sit back, relax and enjoy The Coaching Conversation.



ROZ: Welcome to this episode of coaching conversation. I'm Roz McDonald and I've been working with business leaders for over 10 years, mentoring and coaching - and that's been through the tough times, the good times, and I'm sure like you, I've seen everything in between. Today I'm lucky enough to be here guest hosting this podcast with Mat Hayes. Mat, please tell us a bit about yourself.

MAT: I'm an executive coach, but I also work as an enterprise agile coach. I deal with change in large organisations, trying to help affect their culture. I also have a company called Humble Associates where we have a group of coaches that do similar things to me.

ROZ: Thanks Mat. So, in this episode of The Coaching Conversation, we're going to be looking at the difference between mentoring and coaching clients and how they both can be used to benefit them.

How would you explain the difference between mentoring and coaching?

MAT: With coaching, fundamentally it's about helping the other to think. That could be for them to unblock problems. The intervention a coach makes is in service of thinking outside of what you normally would have and pushing in an open question that ‘I haven't thought about that before’ and facilitate the space mentor.

From my perspective, there's lots of ways this can be done, but the mentoring for me is fundamentally that I have knowledge about something and I'm not necessarily telling them what to do, but more guiding them, supporting them, pointing them at useful things that might help them. Or if I do have an experience, sharing that with them so that they can see what happens from there.

ROZ: I think they're both very important methods of improvement, but there are very different at the same time. Could you give us a couple of examples of situations where you've perhaps used both in a coaching session?

MAT: Sure. I often do ‘time to think’ coaching and fundamentally that is a very light touch. The questions are powerful - designed to keep you thinking. It's not contextual at all. Obviously, some clients might want something back from that, but what I then do towards the end of the session would be to say ‘is there anything that you would like to go deeper into?’ and if they have something specific, we would then talk about that. Fundamentally I would probably segregate it a little bit.

ROZ: And that's a standard format and your clients are used to expecting that discussion with them?

MAT: Yes, and I'm very clear about that.

ROZ: I think it's true that there is a balance to be found - You’ve got to be conscious about which mode you're in, whether you're asking the questions or whether you're helping to find the solutions. I think when you've got a new client that can be difficult. They almost come with the expectation that you will just solve the problem for them.

MAT: Yes, I get the impression that a lot of people think that. Certainly, when I didn't know the difference, I used to think, oh, I'll help this person and in an organisational setting, I think that I might have been imposing help on people. So, I'm not necessarily being asked for help, but I was helping them; ‘I coached them around this’ but fundamentally you're not. Coaching is not what's happening. You're helping to direct them, and may even be you're telling them what to do, which is a step out of mentoring, but fundamentally it's about having them understand the difference so that they can choose.

ROZ: Absolutely, so that they’re not limited by your experience or your view of life?

MAT: Yes, there have been times when I've been working with people and I've almost suggested something and I’ve stopped myself and held back because, in the course of time, I can see that if I had said that, then they wouldn't have done what they actually did, which is very positive. So being able to notice that you could be impacting change in direction of somebody just by what you're saying is very key from a mentor.

I would always talk, tell the story and I'll share an experience with you, so take from that what you will, but by no means, am I saying you should do. This is just experience led.

ROZ: If you're in a situation where a client directly asks you for the solution or what they should do you have a way of deflecting?

MAT: If they have no experience of something, I would either point them at some resources to help, or offer to do some training with them to get some skill in it. At that point, they're then in a position to know what they actually want. But I think you can easily fall into the trap of assuming what somebody wants.

In a coaching session when I'm offering a bit of mentoring, I'm,very clear with them - If they ask something, I’ll be very explicit and I will talk directly to that rather than just trying to guess what they wanted and then spilling out a load of other stuff.

ROZ: That's great. I think there is plenty more we could go on and talk about, but that's our time for today. Thank you for joining us, it's been really good and we look forward to having you back at some point in the future. Goodbye.


So, there you have it, the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at

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